In lockdown, as we are, what else was I going to do with my free time but throw myself into a community music project? Feast your ears on this fine effort: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdYFyrSgFtA
This is my first attempt at pulling together an open choir of people from across a community and I’ve learned a few key lessons doing it. Here, then, are my top five tips for virtual community choirs:
- Tuning is relative but range is absolute. People might complain it’s too high or low but really the biggest issue will be a tune with more than an octave range. Exactly like the one we picked to go first. And our next offering, when it’s ready. If you want a narrow range, go for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Apart from the penultimate note, White Christmas fits in an octave plus one tone. Pick your tunes with care.
- Timing is key – provide a simple backing track and stick with it. So long as people listen on one device with headphones and record on a second, you’ll have a clean vocal recording too.
- Faces are essential. We ditched our choir videos for pictures of rainbows, for obvious reasons, but we put a montage of participants in the closing credits. This isn’t about perfection but participation. It’s not competition but collaboration.
- The tech will break you. Video CODEC mismatch? Check. Laptop hotter than a fresh crumpet? Check. Upload speed restricted by prehistoric router? Check. Leave plenty of time for exterminating gremlins.
- It’s immense fun. Really huge. Lots of people doing their bit, nobody minding if the odd cue or note ending is less than perfect, and everybody is going to enjoy the result because it’s not about performance in the end – it’s about a group of people singing together even though they are the only people in the room when they record their bit. It’s community but virtual.
Have a go. It’s not all that tricky once you’ve learned from the first few mistakes and it’s glorious fun once you have the hang of it. And even now I”m learning new skills and honing existing talents as I do it.